The Journal Gazette
 
 
Sunday, August 07, 2016 6:01 am

Kelly likes what he sees during camp's first day

Chris Goff | The Journal Gazette

CULVER – Alizé Jones sprinted downfield, screaming.

In a 1-on-1 passing drill, fellow Notre Dame tight end Durham Smythe had just caught the football despite it being shielded from view by defensive back Jalen Elliott.

Sidelined for the upcoming season due to academics, Jones eagerly ran up to Smythe and patted his head in celebration.

It was an example of Jones being a good teammate at the first practice of training camp, which in turn exemplified Irish coach Brian Kelly’s theme for 2016, a year in which stars and leaders like Jaylon Smith, Joe Schmidt, Ronnie Stanley and Sheldon Day have moved on.

"I think this football team, in a nutshell, is one that’s going to have to do ordinary things extraordinarily well," Kelly said. "With the growth of this team since January, I couldn’t say that in January. I didn’t particularly like some of the things I saw about our day-to-day demeanor and how we handled things. But I do now."

Smythe said Jones might have been the loudest player Saturday at Culver Academies, where the Irish will train through Wednesday before returning to their South Bend campus for the rest of camp.

"It just goes to show you who he is as a person," Smythe said. "(His enthusiasm) was huge for all of us. Being out there with so much energy when he knows he’s just (limited to) practicing, I’ve gained so much respect for him just through one day."

One day was hardly enough to provide an answer to the top storyline, which is the quarterback battle between DeShone Kizer and Malik Zaire.

In 11-on-11 drills toward the end of the roughly two-hour practice, Kizer completed 4 of 7 passes, while Zaire, who scrambled more, went 2 for 4.

Defenders were in pads but were not allowed to tackle, though Zaire would argue one of his incompletions was a case of pass interference.

"They are a little different in what we want to do with them," Kelly said of the two signal-callers. "We saw Malik on a breakdown throw a great ball over the middle on a play that was broken, and we saw Kizer dump the ball down off of his third check. We continue to plow forward and keep them sharp; they continue to be who we thought they would be."

Kizer received the majority of first-team repetitions. Kelly has a history of alternating and balancing reps, however, when he is overseeing a quarterback battle with fairly even options.

At other positions up for grabs, players taking first-team reps to open camp were Asmar Bilal (outside linebacker), Jay Hayes (defensive end) and Hunter Bivin (right guard).

The day wrapped up with a final instance of the type of "little things" Kelly wants to see in his players, as Carroll graduate Drue Tranquill led his teammates in a prayer on behalf of the family of the late Greg Bryant, who played for the Irish in 2013 and 2014.

All in all, Kelly said he saw a positive attitude, even if the execution has a ways to go before the Sept. 4 season opener at Texas.

"I thought we pushed them pretty hard," Kelly said. "But you’re acclimatizing to a lot of things. First day of football. I would say overall it’s probably what we had expected."

cgoff@jg.net


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